ca TAI GEOtJP.
and Southern Tai languages, but are nearer to the latter than the former. The Lao
alphabet is derived from the Mon and closely related to it ia that of Lu. The Siamese
alphabet is said to be a modified form of the Bali of Cambodia. It "was invented in thİ
year 1125, in the reign of Rama Somdet, or about a hundred years before the invasion of
Assam by the Atoms. .
The Northern group includes a dead language, Ahom, together with Khamti and
Shan proper, Ahom was the language of the Tai conquerors who first invaded Assam
in the year 1228 and ruled it with varying power till the end of the eighteenth century.
The Ahoms have long been completely Hinduised, and their language has for many years
been extinct as a spoken tongue, but a considerable literature in it is still extant. It has
an alphabet of its own, which is an archaic form of that used at the present day by the
Khamtis and Shans of Burma, but is much more complete. We are not in a position to
say that it is certain that Khamtl and Shan are actually descended from Ahom, but it is
very probably the case, and without any doubt whatever Ahom, if not the actual pro-
genitor, must have been very closely related to Mm. It is of peculiar interest to the
philologist, as it is, so far as I am aware, the oldest form of Northern Tai speech regarding
which we have any information. Khamtl is spoken on the upper course of the Irrawaddy
and its branches, also in Bor Khamti (Great Khamtl Land), immediately to the east of
Assam, and by four colonies in the Lakhimpur District of that Province. Shan is divided
into three dialects, Northern Shan, Southern Shan, and Chinese Shan, or Tai Mau.
Northern and Southern Shan occupy the territory between the mountains east of the great
Burma plain and the Mekong River, and between the 19th and 23rd parallels of north
latitude. Northern Shan is the language of the Northern Shan States, and Southern Shan
that of the Southern Shan States. Northern Shan is closely allied to Southern Shan,
indeed they form one language, with only slight differences of dialect. When they differ,
Northern Shan is often in agreement with Khamti. Chinese Shan or Tai Man is spoken ia
the many small principalities which lie east and north-east of Bhamo and are tributary to
China. It, too, appears to differ but slightly from the other two dialects of Shan proper.
Mr. Needham is of opinion that almost all the words found in use in ILhaniti are quite
different from those in use in Shan proper, but this is hardly borne out by the imperfect
observations which I have been able to make. To me it seems as if the two languages were
almost the same. Dialectic differences of course exist, but, so far as I can find out, little
more. The grammars are nearly identical. As regards vocabulary, all I can say is that
out of the first twenty words in Mr. Needham's Khamti vocabulary, fourteen can at once
be found in the same spellings and meanings in Dr, Cushing's Shan Dictionary, and
probably more would be found there if allowance were made for difference of orthography.
Northern and Southern Shan have the same alphabet, which is closely connected with
Burmese. Chinese Shan has two additional letters and also writes its character in a peculiar
diamond-shaped way instead of making them circular, a thing which its writers attribute
to Chinese influence. Thus, a Burmese Shan would write tha oo and a Tai Mau would
write it &>. Burmese Shan tradition says that about 300 years ago, after the estab-
lishment, or more probably the revival, of Buddhism, a Shan priest went down into the
Burma country, learned Pali and Burmese, devised the present Shan alphabet, and
translated some religious books into his own language. The Khamtl alphabet closely
resembles the Burmese. Shan one, but some of the letters take divergent shapes. It is a
more local modification.